“It’s been an incredible honor to run a principled campaign for the White House,” the libertarian-leaning Paul said in a statement. “Today, I will end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of Liberty.”
His withdrawal comes less than a week before the New Hampshire primary, the next round in the Republican and Democratic nomination contests. Paul didn’t say whether he would endorse any of the other candidates.
Paul, the son of former Texas Representative Ron Paul, who twice ran for president, opposed many forms of foreign intervention and often found himself out of step with the other candidates in his party.
He is up for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat this year and had faced calls from fellow Republicans to concentrate on that race. Paul drew a prominent Democratic challenger, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, last month, though Senate analysts continue to rate the seat safe for Republicans.
“I will continue to carry the torch for Liberty in the United States Senate and I look forward to earning the privilege to represent the people of Kentucky for another term,” Paul said in the statement.
Paul receives support from less than 3 percent of Republicans nationally, according to RealClearPolitics, the poll aggregation site. He missed the cut for the Jan. 14 prime-time debate and skipped the undercard event, arguing the criteria were unfair.
Paul was elected to the Senate in 2010 on a wave of Tea Party enthusiasm, defeating the preferred Republican candidate of Kentucky’s senior senator, Mitch McConnell, now majority leader. Paul supported McConnell in his 2014 re-election and McConnell returned the favor for Paul’s White House bid.
Paul entered the presidential race in April 2015 to fanfare about his outreach to groups that don’t typically back the GOP, such as college students in Berkeley and at the historically black Howard University and sought to capitalize on the exposure of a 2013 filibuster speech on drones and American civil liberties.
The Paris terrorism attacks in November brought national security to the forefront of the presidential race, and Paul struggled to get traction against better-polling candidates such as Donald Trump, who’s vowed in obscene terms to bomb Islamic State militants, and others advocating a greater military response.
Paul, in opting not to continue his presidential bid, can now concentrate on his Senate re-election campaign.
Paul follows former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in dropping out of the Republican primary battle after Iowa’s caucuses.